Steven's Book Reviews: Beatles '66 - The Revolutionary Year by Steve Turner (HarperCollins, 2016)

Steven's Book Reviews: Beatles '66 - The Revolutionary Year by Steve Turner (HarperCollins, 2016)
The cover of Steve Turner's Beatles '66: A Revolutionary Year (Courtesy of HarperCollins)

Very rarely have I been able to quote one of the schmaltziest songs ever recorded by Frank Sinatra (and that's saying something!):

"...it was a very good year."

And what a year it was! Steve Turner's new book Beatles '66: The Revolutionary Year catalogs Earth Year 1966 for the Fab Four. In those 12 months, they finished their album Rubber Soul, started and completed their next, Revolver, as well as starting the eponymous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

It was also the year where The Beatles became John, Paul, George, and Ringo.  They shed the public of the four fine upstanding lads from Liverpool and morphed into true individuals, with their own wants, desires, and interests.

The year marked their final tour as a group, after being manhandled violently in The Philippines and drowned out constantly by the teenyboppers screaming. Touring became a chore, not an opportunity for growth as musicians, and the decision was made to suspend touring and focus on recording their increasingly innovative songs that had no chance of being performed adequately on stage in an era of limited technical equipment.

Paul broadened his cultural knowledge, even going so far as to attend a concert of one of my favorite avant-garde classical composers, Luciano Berio:

John dipped his toes into an acting career, Ringo got into the Construction game, and George traveled to India to study Indian Classical Music with famed musician Ravi Shankar. The story of the romance of John Lennon and Yoko Ono begins near the end of the book, as well as marriage dissolutions and adultery by the other boys.

Some of the classics in the Beatles oeuvre were composed this year, including the Vivaldi-inspired "Eleanor Rigby", trippy "Strawberry Fields Forever", and iconic, childlike "Yellow Submarine." The boys showed us that they were flesh and blood, not feathers and greasepaint, pouring their increasingly-dramatic life stories into their compositions and musicianship.

The World was trying to pigeonhole the group but, thankfully, they were not willing to go easily. An alternate title for this book could well have been "With a Little Help from My Friends", based solely on the number of the 60's biggest names that populate this narrative. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Mamas and The Papas, Ravi Shankar, David Crosby, Imelda Marcos, and Sir Neville Mariner all lend our boys a hand in navigating the treacherous waters of 1966.

Turner balances the professional and personal lives admirably and is never dry, a real pitfall when one is trying to write a serious book about a group that was well known for being flippant and humorous. His voice is clear and he never passes divine judgment, another bramble that many Beatles' biographers fall into because of their drug use and open morals.

The format also gives us detail that is unseen in a cumulative biography of the boys. While 1966 may get twenty or thirty pages in the narrative of a well-balanced bio, Turner is able to devote all 454 pages to this one year and the many twists and turns it took. The result is a study of a year that never borders on tedium and always moves at a fast enough clip to keep the reader riveted.

So, sit back, relax, get out your LP of Revolver, and let Stever Turner "take you down" to a year that changed the face of popular music forever.

And, when you get to "Eleanor Rigby", turn it up loud for your favorite blogger:


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And  the newest episode of my podcast, The Objectivist and The Vegan, has been uploaded to SoundCloud

In this episode, Jack (The Vegan) and Steven (The Objectivist) discuss the plethora of celebrity deaths this year and debate a very prurient and salacious topic: Sugar Daddies and Financial Domination! Also: Jack hates the Star Wars Prequels, Steven uses an outdated term for little people, and Jack offers up his services!

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